ADA Statement

WASHINGTON, July 25 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Following is a statement by HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson regarding the 13th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act:

"Only 13 years after it was signed into law, it is difficult to imagine our country without the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA has transformed us, and it continues to transform us. Attitudes have already changed dramatically, barriers of all kinds are in the process of coming down, and opportunities are opening. ADA has helped all Americans to better understand our world through the experience and needs of others.

"The ADA also reminds us how much remains to be done. Eventually, every one of us will be touched closely by issues of illness or disability -- whether for ourselves or for family, friends or fellow workers. We must respond in ways that benefit not only those with disabilities, but our whole community.

"With the leadership of President Bush and his New Freedom Initiative, the Department of Health and Human Services gives high priority to improving our nation's response to disability -- in our many programs that support direct services, as well as our medical research that can help prevent or ameliorate disability, and especially in policies that can shape the options available to disabled individuals and their families.

"In particular, the President wants to encourage inclusion and community-based living for Americans with disabilities. We must avoid and reverse policies that have inadvertently led to excessive reliance on institutional care. And we must create more opportunities to provide care in the home and community as an alternative.

"In his New Freedom Initiative, the President has recognized the need for a comprehensive approach to removing barriers. That's why he called on HHS and other government agencies to prepare a broad-scale review of the steps that need to be taken. I was pleased to deliver that report to him last year, and I am pleased today to report that we are making progress on those goals.

"Likewise, the President called for a new assessment of our nation's system for helping people with mental illness. Just this week, the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health delivered its report, pointing the way toward fundamental overhaul of that system. I am committed to move forward productively toward the vision of this report. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will deliver initial action recommendations to me quickly.

"The President's budget this year includes a dramatic proposal to support community living for those with disabilities. It envisions more than $2.5 billion in multi-year Medicaid demonstrations that would give the states significant new support and incentives to enable people in institutions the choice to receive services in their own homes and communities. The purpose is to promote a better balance, so that good institutional care is available when needed, but community-based care alternatives are equally available. The President's proposal also includes important new projects to develop our system of respite care. We have conveyed legislation to Congress to authorize these projects, and we will be working with key members of Congress over the coming weeks to achieve enactment as quickly as possible.

"Our efforts are continuing in many other areas as well. For example:

-- Our Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has provided $125 million to states in the past two years to support development of home and community-based care. Another $40 million is being provided this year for these 'Real Choice Systems Change' grants. CMS is also working with states to help them use the flexibility already available in the Medicaid program to support community care. In addition, the agency is supporting state efforts to improve the recruitment, training and retention of community-based direct service workers.

-- CMS and the Administration on Aging are also developing new information and assistance resources in the community. Their 'Aging and Disability Resource Center' grants will provide for 'one-stop shopping' information and entry points to the long-term support system in a community. Likewise, together with the Health Resources and Services Administration, CMS will support Family-to-Family Health Care Information and Education Centers to help families navigate the long-term support options available for their children.

-- Our new Office on Disability is helping me oversee the coordination, development and implementation of programs and special initiatives within HHS that impact people with disabilities. In creating this office last year, we recognized the importance and cross-cutting nature of these issues, and the extent to which they touch virtually every HHS operating division.

-- Our Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is also playing an important part pursuant to the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision. With the Department of Justice, OCR has put in place a new alternative dispute resolution program to help achieve Olmstead's goals in the most rapid and productive manner possible, when problems are identified.

"The Department of Health and Human Services is resolved to support the President in his New Freedom Initiative. I commend all those who are carrying out this work in HHS, in the states and in communities throughout America. On the 13th anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act, I renew the commitment of our Department to making ADA a fully realized dream."

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